In a letter to the editor of the Nature Biotechnology Trade Secrets blog, 166 biotechnology executives have expressed their concern regarding President Donald Trump’s travel ban on those coming from seven Muslim countries. Their objection to the temporary ban centered on its potential impact on the drug development industry, with the authors stating that the US is currently the world leader in pharmaceutical innovation.
“The United States has led the world in medicine production for decades, not only because of its ability to finance drug discovery, but also because, more than any other country, the United States represents opportunity regardless of borders, gender, race, sexual orientation or political cast,” read the letter. “This has enabled our industry to attract the best talent, wherever it is found. This aspect of our industry is a core reason the United States has built its unique strength in biopharmaceuticals.”
The letter goes on to stress the importance of immigration in all areas of the life sciences, including laboratories, research facilities and businesses. The authors also cite a 2014 study which found that of the 69,000 biomedical researchers in the US that year, 52 percent were born outside the country.
According to the authors, while Trump’s immigration ban only includes seven Muslin majority nations, global employees of biotech and pharmaceutical companies are interpreting the executive order to mean that, “America is no longer welcoming of any immigrants, whatsoever.” Employees from other nations have expressed concerns that the ban could be expanded to their country of origin, and they are delaying travel plans which involved leaving the US for fear that they may not be able to reenter.
“If this misguided policy is not reversed, America is at risk of losing its leadership position in one of its most important sectors, one that will shape the world in the twenty-first century,” continued the letter. “Indeed, it will harm an industry dominated by smaller companies and startups, the very kind of industry the administration has said it wants to support. It will slow the fight against the many diseases that afflict us, as well as carry negative economic consequences for the United States.”
Last week, the United States District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle issued a temporary restraining order against Trump’s travel ban. While the restraining order will prevent the ban from being enforced, the president plans to overturn the ruling. A decision from the US Court of Appeals could be made as early as today.